Do You Qualify for Workers' Compensation Benefits?
By Elizabeth Johnson, Attorney, Law Office of Walter Hundley, Charleston, SC
If you sustain an injury or illness, one of your first questions may be whether you qualify to receive benefits such as medical treatment and loss of income compensation under workers' compensation laws. There are three main requirements for workers' compensation eligibility:
- Your employer carries workers' compensation coverage – In order for you to be entitled to benefits, you must work for an employer that pays workers' compensation premiums. For example, under South Carolina law, any business that employs at least four workers must purchase coverage, with only a few exceptions. If your employer does not carry this type of insurance but is legally required to do so under the law, you may still be eligible for benefits and should discuss your situation with an attorney as soon as possible.
- You are an employee of the company – Not every worker is considered to be an employee under the law. For example, if you are an unpaid intern or independent contractor, you are not eligible for benefits under the law. However, too often, employers misclassify workers accidentally or even purposefully to avoid the costs of workers' compensation coverage and other employee-related benefits. The classification requirements [PDF] are very specific and, if you believe you have been wrongfully classified as an independent contractor, you should not delay in consulting with an experienced workers' compensation attorney.
- Your injury or illness must be related to your work – If you sustained your injury or medical condition on the job or while you were doing anything that was beneficial to your employer, it will likely be considered work-related and you will be entitled to benefits. In most cases, it is fairly straightforward whether or not your injury is work-related. If your employer is trying to claim that your condition did not happen on the job, a workers' compensation attorney can help stand up for your rights to benefits.
Even if you meet all of the above qualifications, you may not receive the full amount of benefits to which you are entitled under the law. An experienced workers' compensation attorney in Charleston can represent your best interests to your employer and the workers' compensation carrier to ensure you receive the full amount of benefits for your on the job injury or illness.